To think that I would ever be kicking off my Senior year in the middle of a pandemic was truly something that NEVER crossed my mind!!! However, we are here now in the middle of the coronavirus pandemic. I am also very mindblown that I am TWO MONTHS into my Fall semester as a college Senior AND living through a pandemic. Although things are slowly but surely going back to the way they were before March 2020, things are still nowhere near what they were, especially at college. It is sad at times to know that my college experience is extremely different from what it was last year. At the same time, I am striving to make the best of it all as life will never be the way it was before.

Meredith College prides itself on its traditions and several events for students. Traditions at Meredith College are essentially events that have been around for generations that several students have participated in before me and will continue to after me. For example, Meredith hosts a Ring Dinner each year where every Junior gets their Onyx or class ring. These traditions make the Meredith College experience OH SO SPECIAL. It is sad to see that many of my traditions which I planned to experience this year have been cancelled, postponed, or even made virtual. While Meredith events are not the same as they were in the past, I am truly grateful for the staff members and students who have worked so so so hard to make them still happen, even if we are in a pandemic.

I have done a lot of reflecting on traditions and social events at Meredith and one thing always comes to my mind: inclusion. Even though we cannot really have our Meredith traditions in a huge social setting as in the past, they were also exclusive to students at my school. Traditions at Meredith come with a hefty price tag of up to $100 per event. This expensive price includes an event ticket, t-shirt and/or sweatshirt to commemorate the event, and any other merchandise sold. While traditions and the merchandise tied to the events are optional, many students do purchase tickets and all merchandise sold if they can afford to do so. BUT not all students can afford that high price tag for one tradition or event. These students can easily feel left out if they cannot afford a t-shirt or other merchandise, even if they decide to attend the tradition or event. Unfortunately, many of my fellow Meredith sisters who struggle to go to these events are Black Indigenous People of Color (BIPOC). With the ongoing talk about inclusion for people of all races, it is imperative that Meredith College rethink the way that they fund their traditions and social events, especially for our sweet BIPOC sisters along with those who simply struggle to pay their bills let alone attend social events that make the Meredith College experience extremely special.

I am really hoping that Meredith takes the time that we would be using to plan these traditions and social events to include more of our BIPOC sisters and make events more accessible to everyone. In order to continue to be successful and create an even more welcoming, loving, and diverse environment, Meredith needs to be thinking about ways to include everyone in all events. Currently, Meredith College is offering a Campus Climate Survey, where students can express their opinions about ways to create a more diverse and inclusive environment for everyone on our campus. When I say everyone, I mean students who are BIPOC, disabled, LGBTQ+, economically struggling along with students who are white and can afford to do most of the activities that Meredith has to offer. I am really really really hoping that the Campus Climate Survey brings about some much needed change to my campus for years to come.

With this pandemic, I have realized that things happen for a reason. Although it really sucks to miss out on traditions and social events that I had envisioned I would take part in just like years past, I am grateful for the time that is being dedicated to more important things. Including my BIPOC sisters in all campus activities and interactions is much more important to me than any social interaction that I could have or even putting on a cute dress and taking a photo. I have loved my Meredith College experience, and I want everyone who comes to Meredith to feel the same exact way that I have. Unfortunately, my experience has not been the case for everyone who comes to Meredith, but we can all work towards embracing a beautiful diverse student body and including everyone. Diversity is what makes the world go round!!!

At the same time, I am also grateful to still be living on campus and attending classes in-person. Schools nearby me such as NC State and UNC Chapel Hill have sent their students home within the first two weeks of classes. To kick off my semester, I was worried that the same thing would happen at Meredith. However, I feel really fortunate to still be here at sweet Meredith College. Having to do college from home such as last Spring semester really sucked, and I did not want to have to do college from home yet again. Likewise, many of my friends and classmates felt the same way. While many things are still virtual in the college world, I am still able to see my friends and professors in a social distanced manner. Being on campus definitely makes a major difference, even if it is in a Covid-19-dominated world.

I am also striving to make the best of the coronavirus pandemic, especially during college. While to some it may appear as if “the fun is taken out of college,” I have been able to still make it fun for myself as well as those around me. At the beginning of the pandemic, I struggled with anxiety and depression. Anxiety over how this pandemic would play out and as to how long our new virtual and social distanced world would last along with extreme worry over getting sick. Depression over the sadness that I felt that I could not go outside without a mask or simply do things like I could in the past for quite a while. I was losing the social experiences that made my life super lively and exciting and I had to process that all. I used to struggle with major fear of missing out (FOMO), and my FOMO hit like a ton of bricks when the pandemic started and prolonged into the summer months. Luckily, I have been able to work through and process the struggles that I have faced. In fact, I have felt happier than I have in the past even though there is a pandemic that made me initially feel as if everything that I loved was taken away from me in the blink of an eye.

Before the pandemic, I never even took the time to work on loving and caring for myself. I defined myself upon how many social outings and trips that I took. I never wanted to miss out on ANYTHING, even if it was one picture or tiny activity or social interaction. If I did, I felt as if the world had ended. In those times, I truly had lost touch of the important things in this world. When the pandemic hit, my depression ignited along with it all. My depression stayed for a few months, but I worked through it through working on myself and my definition of who I am. I stopped defining myself based off of the social interactions and trips that I went on, especially as I could not do any of that. Rather, I put my focus on my self worth, growth, love, and care. I have made a life that I want to live, pandemic or not. That to me is more important than anything else and it will carry me throughout the years and seasons of life beyond Covid-19.

The coronavirus changed our world in the blink of an eye. The changes that came from it were changes that no one wanted at first (i.e. cancelled events, virtual classes and work), but they have brought about changes that are necessary like creating a more diverse and inclusive world for those who walk with us and beyond. I have also been able to truly work on myself and have that time to do so. Overall, I am thankful for the positive changes that have come about in my life during this pandemic and hopeful that they bring even greater changes in my life and more importantly others’ lives.

XOXO – Katie <3

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